IIE to Lead Historic U.S. Higher Education Delegation to Cuba

Note to Editors: Members of the press are invited to interview Allan Goodman and university representatives upon their return from Cuba.

NEW YORK, October 20, 2015—The Institute of International Education will lead a delegation of representatives from 12 U.S. universities to Cuba on October 24-31 to learn more about the current state of higher education in the country and explore potential partnership opportunities. The delegation is part of a broader IIE Cuba Higher Education Initiative which seeks to reinvigorate higher education engagement between the U.S. and Cuba in light of the opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Allan E. Goodman, IIE’s President & CEO, will lead the delegation, which will include members of the International Academic Partnership Program Advisory Board as well as approximately 30 university representatives. 

Advisory Board Members for the Cuba project include John McAuliff, Executive Director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development & Coordinator for Cuba-US People to People Partnership; Meg Crahan, Director of the Cuba Program, Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University; Lisandro Pérez, chair of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York; and Alina Camacho-Gingerich, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) & Professor of Languages & Literatures at St. John’s University. The board members serve as sounding boards for the participating universities throughout the six-month program, providing strategic mentorship and Cuba-specific advice.

The universities taking part in this historic delegation are: Associated Colleges of the Midwest; Central Washington University; Indiana University; Lehman College, CUNY; Oberlin College; Rutgers University; SUNY New Paltz; University of Arizona; Montclair State University; University of Tampa; Virginia Commonwealth University; and West Texas A&M. The colleges selected seek to increase their partnerships with Cuban institutions through a number of training activities focused on understanding the Cuba higher education system and addressing key academic partnership interests and needs.

A limited number of American students have studied in Cuba despite travel restrictions that have been in place in recent years. IIE’s Open Doors report showed that there were 1,633 students who studied abroad in Cuba for academic credit in 2012/13, up from 1,454 in 2011/12, and the IIEPassport directory currently lists 25 study abroad programs to Cuba.  But very few students from Cuba have been able to come to the United States. 

“In our face-to-face meetings with Cuban educators, we have found that the desire to develop partnerships with U.S. colleges and universities is strong,” said Allan Goodman. “The reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba paves the way for student and faculty exchange in both directions and allows for joint research that will benefit both of our societies and the world we share.”

In August Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cuba to attend the official ceremony for the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. During the visit, both Secretary Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla commented on issues of mutual interest. 

Foreign Minister Parilla, speaking to the press in Havana, noted that “Both sides agreed on the importance of opening new areas of dialogue, consolidating the already-existing mechanisms of a bilateral cooperation and expanding them to include new ones, such as environmental protections, health care, science, and law enforcement, among others,” and spoke about “attempts to increase international cooperation to solve problems.”

Secretary Kerry, speaking at the flag raising ceremony in Havana, noted that “the reopening of our embassies is important on two levels: People-to-people and government-to-government. We believe it’s helpful for the people of our nations to learn more about each other, to meet each other. … After all, we are neighbors, and neighbors will always have much to discuss in such areas as civil aviation, migration policy, disaster preparedness, protecting marine environment, global climate change, and other tougher and more complicated issues.”

This delegation represents an interest on the part of universities in both countries in taking part in the process of building connections with one another to advance academic exchange and joint research focused on advancing understanding of one another’s culture and addressing issues of mutual interest. It follows a series of IIE Cuba Higher Education Initiative activities, such as a series of bi-national conference calls and briefing papers, that seek to increase U.S. – Cuba academic engagement. 

Since the inception of the International Academic Partnership Program in 2009, IIE’s Center for International Partnerships has worked with over 100 U.S. colleges and universities to foster sustainable linkages with Brazil, Norway, China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar. As a result of the program, previous participating institutions have developed partnerships with counterparts in their particular focus country, engaging in collaborative activities such as faculty exchange, student exchange, study abroad programs, joint research, and joint conferences.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,400 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.


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